In Brennan Manning’s Abba’s Child, he points out the time when Jesus asked us to be perfect, as our heavenly father is perfect. The word translated perfect is actually about being compassionate. Be compassionate, the way the father, the creator whose image we were made in, is compassionate. He gives the example of having been asked by an evangelical, while serving in the Regional AIDS Interfaith Network in New Orleans, what the posture of the Christian community ought to be toward the gay community.
His response was to cite the parable given by Jesus about letting the weeds grow up with the wheat. If we tear out of our community what we perceive to be weeds (note, I said perceive, for even Manning says we cannot know a person’s motive), we will tear out the wheat right along with it. When we presume to stand in God’s judgment seat, rather than his mercy seat, we do great damage. Ironically, after Romans 1, which includes a discourse by Paul against all kinds of sins, including sexual sins, he says we therefore have no right to judge anybody. Why would he say that unless he believed we all fall short of the glory of God just as much as we all have hope in being saved by him?
I’m reading Abba’s Child by Brennan Manning. There’s a section in here that says so clearly what I used to try to convey so unsuccessfully. I used to frequent what others considered to be the dark corridors of human society; I was part of a community that other Christians I knew wouldn’t go anywhere near. I was really part of that community. I wasn’t there to just share the gospel and then leave. I wasn’t an outsider in their midst. They were my friends, and I was part of their lives as they were part of mine. In the end, I didn’t leave because I fulfilled my mission among them–I never intended to leave at all. I left because my presence there was creating such a severe rift between myself and those who insisted I was wrong to be there that I found myself having to choose between them and my own family.
I find this passage from Brennan Manning to communicate so clearly what I failed to convey to other Christians at that time, that I can’t help but share it here, in this place where I occasionally step out of my shell and reveal a bit of what lies beneath the surface of me.
Because the shining sun and the falling rain are given both to those who love God and to those who reject God, the compassion of the Son embraces those who are still living in sin. The Pharisee lurking within all of us shuns sinners. Jesus turns toward them with gracious kindness. He sustains His attention throughout their lives for the sake of their conversion “which is possible to the very last moment.”
God never leaves us, never forsakes us, never gives up hope that we will turn to him and place our trust in his heavenly care. Even when we’re sinning, even when we’re rejecting him, even when we want nothing to do with him, he eagerly awaits our attention like a mother whose baby is just beginning to walk away from her for the first time. Why shouldn’t we, as the baby’s brothers and sisters, dwell with our mother and our sibling in this place? Who knows, maybe if the baby falls, we will be there to pick him or her up and redirect them to the care that awaits them, because of the trust we have earned as people of love and safety. Wouldn’t a parent’s heart rejoice at such love between siblings? Aren’t we all created in God’s image, all descended from the same breath of God as one another, part of the same creation he so lovingly cares for, and doesn’t he ask us to care for it with him?